“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ”Maya Angelou
In the early days of Hollywood, white actors played black characters. In Elizabethan times, women were not allowed to become actors, so men portrayed the female roles.
Today, we consider such things disgraceful and unacceptable, but it was considered normal at that time, in that paradigm. Gradually perceptions changed and a new paradigm came to pass. Changes over time are known as epochal transformations. They involve a slow process, with each tiny change edging us closer and closer towards a paradigm shift.
We are approaching such a paradigm shift in the workplace, but we still have a long way to go. Just as white actors playing the roles of black actors and men playing the roles of women seems preposterous today, I believe, in time, we will consider some of our modern-day work practices absurd. This Thursday Thought highlights the need to consider the female menstrual cycle in a paradigmatic shift in work practices.
My chat on this week’s Innovation show with Annie Auerbach, author “Flex, Reinventing Work for a Smarter, Happier Life” inspired this Thursday Thought. In her book, Annie emphasises the need for women to listen to their bodies and not be ashamed about menstrual cycles. She explains how a woman’s hormone levels fluctuate as they move through their monthly cycles. This makes women feel, behave and perform differently. The changes in levels of progesterone and oestrogen affect brain cognition, emotions, sensory processing and appetite.
While men cannot truly understand these physiological changes, we can look at some facts to inform much-needed change in society. For example, we know that in times of stress, we experience a multitude of physiological changes including an increase in heart rate, pupil and lung dilation, saliva production and digestive function reduction and muscle contraction. Blood is diverted from our brain to our arms for fight and our feet for flight. As a result, our thinking moves from more expansive big picture thinking to a more binary, black and white mode of thinking. We literally cannot think straight.
We live in a knowledge economy, where cognitive health is essential for optimum performance. If you agree that this is the case, would you also agree that it is ludicrous that women have to work through menstrual cycles, when they are experiencing hormonal imbalances and a wide spectrum of side effects including debilitating pain?
If society shines a light on this reality, women can synchronise their routines, social lives and work behaviours to suit their cycles. In Japan and China menstrual leave has been in place for decades, but even if it became accepted practice elsewhere in the world, it would require a paradigmatic shift in societal consciousness to remove aspects of shame and fear of punishment for taking care of our health.
Why do I care as a man? If we are to work together to make the planet a better place, we need everyone firing on all cognitive cylinders. We can enable this by adding flexibility to the workplace, but to do that we need to force some flexibility in our headspace.
THANKS FOR READING
When we learn how to flex we gain a superpower that allows us to challenge what is holding us back and reinvent the rules for a smarter, happier life. Because things are changing for women across the globe. We are getting married and having children later, if at all. Dual-income families have replaced the traditional template of man as breadwinner and woman as homemaker. Technology allows us to work differently and understand ourselves better. But the old systems still persist. We’re continually bashing up against inflexible structures that were built by, and for, men. We are trying to do everything, but following a rulebook we didn’t write.
We welcome the author of Flex: Reinventing Work for a Smarter, Happier Life, Annie Auerbach
More about Annie: https://starlingstrategy.co.uk